Prevent the dead wood on your trees from attracting infestation and disease. Knowing which trees you can prune in the spring will help you promote their health and vigorous growth.
toddsmariettatreeservices.com gathered information on pruning trees and shrubs in springtime, which trees to never prune in spring, and some of the diseases and insects to be aware of.
When To Prune Trees in Spring
Should I prune in early, mid, or late spring? This answer depends on when and how your tree blooms.
Consider the following species and their blooming patterns:
- Abelia (Abelia x Grandiflora) Prune in early spring. Blooms in summer.
- Apple trees (Malus Domestica) Prune in early spring. Blooms in mid to late spring.
- Apricot trees (Prunus armeniaca) Prune in early spring. Blooms in early spring.
- Azalea (Rhododendron) Prune after spring flowers fade. Blooms from early spring to late summer.
- Chaste trees (Vitex agnus-castus) Prune in early spring. Blooms from late spring until early fall.
- Cherry trees (Prunus avium) Prune in early spring or mid-summer. Blooms in mid-spring
- Chokecherry trees (Prunus virginiana) Prune in early spring. Blooms in late spring.
- Clethra or Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) Prune in early spring. Blooms in mid-summer.
- Crabapple trees (Malus) Prune in early spring. Blooms in mid to late spring.
- Dogwood trees (Cornus florida) Prune in early spring during dormancy. Blooms in mid to late spring.
- Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia) Prune in late spring after blooms fade. Blooms in early spring.
- Hawthorn (Crataegus) Prune in early spring. Blooms in late spring or early summer.
- Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) Prune in spring. Blooms in mid to late summer.
- Juneberry trees (Amelanchier lamarckii) Prune in early spring. Blooms in mid-spring.
- Lilac trees (Syringa reticulata) Prune immediately after spring flowers fade. Blooms in early spring.
- Magnolia trees (Magnolia grandiflora) Prune immediately after spring flowers fade. Blooms in early spring.
- Peach trees (Prunus persica) Prune in spring as buds swell. Blooms in spring.
- Pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) Prune in early spring before bud swell. Blooms anytime through mid-spring.
- Plum trees (Prunus domestica) Prune in early spring before bud swell. Blooms in early spring.
- Roses (Rosa) Prune in early spring before leafing. Blooms in spring, summer, and fall.
Maple (Acer), Walnut (Juglans), and Birch (Betula) trees tend to ooze copious amounts of sap after winter pruning. These species release less sap in early spring, making it the preferred time for pruning them.
Tip 1: Trees and shrubs flowering in mid or late summer are doing so on the current year’s growth. Promote this growth by pruning them in early spring.
Tip 2: Trees and shrubs flowering in spring are doing so on the previous year’s growth. These should be pruned only after their flowers fade. Pruning these species before blooming may significantly reduce or eliminate the season’s flowers.
The dormant season is critical in the deciduous tree life cycle, but since trees bloom and enter dormancy at different times, When Should I Prune Trees is a pertinent question that we are often asked. As indicated above, pruning prior to blooming season is a good rule of thumb, but not all trees adhere to this rule, and pruning them incorrectly can be disastrous.
Trees To Never Prune in Spring
Spring pruning for some species can result in catastrophic consequences. The following species are already highly susceptible to disease, and pruning them in spring only exacerbates their susceptibility:
- Oak trees (Quercus) susceptible to oak wilt.
- Elm trees (Ulmus) susceptible to Dutch elm disease.
- Sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) susceptible to anthracnose.
- Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) susceptible to stem cankers.
These and most deciduous tree species should be pruned during their dormant season (late fall through early spring).
Note: Storm and other types of damage should be immediately pruned off the tree, regardless of the season. Leaving damaged wood on any tree species will likely result in infestation or disease.
Tree Diseases and Insect Infestations
If you live in an area affected by an insect or disease epidemic, hire a professional tree service to perform any spring pruning activities on your trees. Such epidemics or outbreaks may include:
- Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) only attacks ash species.
- Dutch Elm Disease (DED) primarily affects elm species.
- Anthracnose – Shade trees such as sycamore, ash, oak, and maple are highly susceptible.
- Bark Beetles attack cedar, spruce, fir, and pine tree species.
- Ambrosia Beetles attack thin-barked, deciduous trees, including more than 100 species.
Tip: Inquire with your local university extension or an ISA certified arborist to confirm any disease or insect epidemics/outbreaks in your area. You can also inquire with your local USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office.
Further Reading: If Anthracnose is prevalent or relevant in your region, we wrote an in-depth article on How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Anthracnose that would be a beneficial read.
When To Prune Trees
In this article, you discovered which flowering tree species can be safely pruned in spring and which species to never cut or prune during the spring months.
Promote vigorous growth and increase your tree’s health by using timely pruning practices in spring.
Without proactive pruning, dead or diseased wood left on your tree will attract diseases and infestations lethal to them.